Saturday, January 20, 2007

2006 Champ Car Review (Part 1)

With the fast approaching first Champ Car test of 2007 at Sebring this week, here’s a look back at the previous season’s results.

Newman/Haas:
(Bourdais: 1st; Junqueira: 5th)

It’s funny how fast opinions change… When Sebastian Bourdais first joined the Champ Car scene in 2003. You could sense right away “Sea Bass” was something special enroute to taking Rookie of the Year honors.

The following two seasons I found myself gleefully screaming at the TV every time thatBourdais showed Paul Tracy the “chrome horn…” And yet my attitude towards Bourdais quickly soured this season, and NOT because he’s French. First there was the mistaken outing at the Portland driver’s autograph session which was followed by “Sea Bass” whining on the podium ‘cause the other drivers didn’t pull over for him…

The final Bourdais “straw;” Along with his whininess I am NOT impressed by his driving techniques… a la “MAC” Montoya. I was really pissed off when he dive bombed Justin Wilson on the final lap in Mexico City…

Yet “Sea Bass” did manage to do something very special in Champ Cars by becoming only the second driver ever to win 3 consecutive Driver’s titles…

Bruno “Whiny Bags” Junqueira (“Junky”) has never been a favourite ‘O mine, since his rookie season with Target/Ganassi… And I know it’s cruel to hammer the guy after his horrific accident at Indianapolis, but “Junky” seems to have just never been able to beat his teammate… Junqueira had a disappointing year finishing 5th in a watered down championship after finishing runner-up three years in a row…

As you can tell I’m not a huge fan of Newman/Haas’s driving line-up, but you have to admire this team for consistently being the team to beat. And how can you not like co-owner Paul Newman’s forthright outspokenness on NEVER wanting to join the “Dark Side.” (IRL)

I look forward to Newman/Haas’s newest recruit Graham Rahal’s arrival in 2007…


RuSPORT:
(Wilson: 2nd)

This is my sentimental choice, considering my favourite Champ Car driver Justin Wilson races for them…

What a roller coaster season the team experienced. And I still do NOT understand the firing of AJ Almendinger… Since I believe that there were some high level shenanigans involved in order to spice up the show. (Unless Carl Russo knew of his impending DEFECTION to “RASSCAR?”)

Then there was the nasty testing accident at Road America where new recruit Cristiano da Matta nearly lost his life when colliding head on with a wayward deer… Fortunately da Matta has almost recovered entirely and is vowing to make a race return shortly…

Then Justin Wilson broke his wrist prior to the season finale the old fashion way, i.e.; driving his race car! In typical “True (Grit) Brit fashion, Wilson was determined to drive the finale after missing Surfers Paradise and led the race for the duration before “Sea Bass” PUNTED him out of the way. Nevertheless Wilson’s gritty drive vaulted him into the runner-up position in the Driver’s championship...

The team’s future looked bleak upon RuSPORT founder Carl Russo’s decision to quit Champ Cars. Fortunately Kevin Kalkhoven was able to entice PKV team co-owner Dan Petitt to step into the fray and purchase Russo’s team…


Forsythe:
(Almendinger: 3rd; Tracy: 7th)

Without a doubt, Forsythe was the most High Profile team of the year. After Mario Dominguez punted team leader Paul Tracy two races in a row, Dominguez became the “fall guy” in a 3 team driver swap…

AJ Almendinger’s Champ Car career went from “Rags to Riches” upon being hired by Forsythe. Almendinger scored his very first Champ Car victory at Portland. This victory opened the floodgates as Almendinger scored a hat trick of victories and finished the season with 5 total wins. Unfortunately the bag loads of money personal sponsor Red Bull offered was too much for the young Open Wheel star to resist. Almendinger DEFECTED to “RASSCAR” and was let go prior to the season finale at Mexico City. This led to Almendinger slipping to third overall in the driver’s standings…

What more can you say about “PT,” eh? Paul Tracy was definitely Champ Cars “Entertainer of the Year…” And what’s really funny is that he was clearly the fan favorite as I stood for nearly an hour in the paddock for the driver’s autograph session at Portland. The line for Tracy was by far the longest and this was prior to his San Jose, Denver and Montreal theatrics…

By now you’ve heard of how “PT” became known as “Sugar Ray” Tracy… After pulling off an extremely STUPID maneuver by blindly pulling out on track directly in front of the oncoming Alex Tagliani… “TAG” went ballistic in the paddock when confronting Tracy… As the camera’s rolled TAG exclaimed “What the FUCK! Were you doing?” And I sat there laughing heartily as CBS wasn’t “bleeping” TAG cussing out Tracy on-air… After saying the “F” word at least 7 times TAG ‘N Tracy got into a fight as the cameras showed them rolling around on the pit lane before CBS cut to commercials…

Next at Denver, “Sugar Ray” Tracy dutifully punted Bourdais out of 2nd place on the final lap at the final corner where “Sea Bass” quickly ran across the track to confront PT. Bourdais like TAG kept his helmet on and simply slapped Tracy before walking off in disgust…

Then just days prior to the next race in Montreal, “Sugar Ray” Tracy publicly stated how the French were AFRAID to fight with their helmets off… This of course grew instant attention as the predominantly French crowd voistriously booed PT every time he appeared on track. Yet Tracy quickly turned the tables by making fun of himself and scored major “points’ when taking the drivers parade lap donned in cape and blue fighting mask…

Then PT garnered another new nickname, “Sand Dune” Tracy after flipping his Rhino ATV in the Nevada desert prior to the season finale…

Interestingly Tracy finished 7th in the final standings, splitting the Team Australia drivers and finishing just one place ahead of arch nemesis Tagliani. This was due to PT being docked 10 points for his on-course shenanigans. I’d love to know how much the point demotion has cost him…

With both of Forsythe’s regular driving duo out of action for Mexico City, the squad drafted IRL refugee Buddy Rice and Mexican newcomer David Martinez. Martinez did an excellent job in his Champ Car debut, finishing ahead of fellow Champ Car debutant Rice…

To continue reading my Champ Car review see: 2006 Champ Car Review-Part 2

No comments:

Post a Comment